Monday, 28 July 2014

Bringing down the SILOS in education

Confidence is what I am really talking about.

At times this is an issue with all staff in education and it surely includes administration and teaching staff.

Why is it that we as educators are so hesitant to share in our process, our ideas and our product?  Why is it that we feel so comfortable in our silos?

Getting rid of these silos is paramount to student success.  As Fullan has suggested, student learning depends on each and every teacher, learning all the time and if students and teachers are going to be successful than we need to ensure that the doors of schools and classrooms are opened and the walls are taken down. As educators, we need share and learn from each other.

We need to engage in the difficult task of if changing this culture in education.  Even in my 14 years of education, I have come across the reluctance of teachers to open up their practice and share with other educators.  As and executive member for the Ontario History and Social Sciences Teachers' Association (OHASSTA) I was the webmaster and created an online data base that teachers could upload and share lessons they created.  Aside from workshop materials that presenting teachers sent to me, rarely did teachers willingly post teaching materials.  This reluctance to open at least a window into their practice is a sign of teachers being unwilling to share, to open doors, to take down walls.  As educators we are standing in the way of a culture change and shift in practice.

So why aren't more educators willing to share?  Willing to open up our classrooms and schools?  I think there are two reasons.  One George Couros touched on and that is the competitive nature of teaching. Second, is a lack of confidence on behalf or educators.  If we can address these two areas, perhaps we can turn doors into windows, and start to bring the silos down.

In his post, "Our Kids", George touches on the competitive nature of schools as we fight for students in our course, our programs, our departments and even our schools.  As we fight to keep our competitive advantage we keep our ideas in, what is working quiet and in the end this is detrimental to all of "our kids." Further to this, the competitive nature of education is directly tied to how we are funded, staffed and resourced; on a per student head basis.  This is why educators fight for students, and do not want to share as a way of keeping their competitive advantage.  Is it time we look at changing our funding model for education?  A question to be answered in another post.

Couros, goes further to discuss the humble attitude of teachers and how they perceive what they do as being insignificant in his post.  I agree and would take this point further  and also suggest a lack of confidence on the part of teachers as an additional factor behind the lack of sharing amongst educators.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, in her book Confidence, highlights how organizations have tremendous talent, but they are not able to carry that talent over into becoming winners because they lack the confidence in themselves to do so.  Our duty as educational leaders is to build confidence in our staff and in order to accomplish this we need to focus on four areas suggested by Kanter;  1) Self-Confidence - let teachers know what they are doing is noticed, that it matters and is having a positive impact;  2) Team Confidence - build strong relationships within a staff so all know they are respected, valued and trusted by all members; 3) System Confidence - develop the same qualities as listed before in our school board.  Staff need to know structures are in place that will lead to collaboration, that will help drive innovation and that there will be accountability; and 4) External Confidence - this is based on the previous three areas of confidence and through the positive outcome of these there will an investment in what is going on in a district, board, school or department.  Kanter's work is critical in this area and I highly recommend getting your own copy of Confidence.

So in our schools if we can develop the confidence of staff perhaps this will help to turn the focus on staff from us, as we fight for students to a we as strive to do what is best for all students.  We can start to tear down those silos and build windows into each other's classrooms and buildings and begin the sharing process. I will leave the funding model for another day.

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